Money Wellness
Two DWP employees viewing the bank account of a benefit claimant
category iconbenefits
calendar icon27 Nov 2023

Government plans to check benefit claimants’ bank accounts

The government has proposed changes to the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill that would allow it to conduct monthly checks on the bank accounts of benefit claimants.

It says this would make it possible for them to spot increases in people’s savings that push them over the benefit eligibility threshold or when they spend more time overseas than benefit rules allow for.

Current rules

At the moment, the Department for Work and Pensions can only carry out fraud checks on people claiming benefits where there is a suspicion of fraud.

Helping people not spying on them

The campaign group Big Brother Watch expressed serious concerns about the plans. Director Silkie Carlo said:

“People who are disabled, sick, carers or looking for work should not be treated like criminals by default.”

She added that doing away with the presumption that you’re innocent until proven guilty was dangerous, and that a welfare system “notoriously bad” at information processing was “highly likely” to make “serious mistakes”.

Carlo concluded:

“As the government is overseeing a cost-of-living crisis, it should be investing public money to help people out of poverty, not to spy on them.”

Taking the taxpayer for a ride

Commenting on the proposed amendments to the bill, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Mel Stride said:

“These new powers send a very clear message to benefit fraudsters – we won’t stand for it.

“These people are taking the taxpayer for a ride and it is right that we do all we can to bring them to justice.”

Avatar of Rebecca Routledge

Rebecca Routledge

A qualified journalist for over 15 years with a background in financial services. Rebecca is Money Wellness’s consumer champion, helping you improve your financial wellbeing by providing information on everything from income maximisation to budgeting and saving tips.

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